One of the most popular TV programmes during lockdown has been the BBC’s The Repair Shop. It became regular viewing for many on those lonely Wednesday evenings when all the news seemed so gloomy.
People bring their old broken or damaged treasures to the Weald & Downland Living Museum, where a group of expert craftsmen and women led by Jay Blades work to restore them – astonishingly often making things like new. I think it has encouraged a lot of people with time on their hands in lockdown to take a mental break from the crisis and enjoy a few hours concentration and having a go at mending or making a few things themselves. It’s a gentle, fascinating watch.
Lost loved ones
Promoted as an antidote to throwaway culture, it is actually much more than that. What is interesting is that most often people bring things to be repaired because of memories of deceased relatives, because of that item’s connection to mum or dad – the binoculars dad used in the war, the radio a wife used to listen to music. Frequently when presented with the repaired object people well up or burst into tears, as happy times past with their loved one come flooding back. It is sometimes quite difficult to hold it together watching from the sofa as folk break down with the emotion of it all. Losing loved ones is not something we ever get used to.
We’ll meet again… ?
Actually, the spirit of the programme is not really about the restored rocking horse or the broken cake stand made new, but the people. Really these dear folk want their loved ones back! They can’t have that, so the best thing they can do is to rekindle memories through objects associated with them.
Theologically, it’s about a yearning for what secularists deny, deride and dismiss. It is a longing for resurrection. ‘O to see them again!’ Of course, the Bible understands this. According to Scripture, death was never part of God’s original creation. It is an evil intruder in our world to which human sin opened the door (Gen. 2:17). That’s why we can never get used to it. That’s why We’ll Meet Again, the great song of Dame Vera Lynn, who died in June, has a deep resonance way beyond its original wartime setting. Death leaves us with a yearning to somehow ‘meet again’ – though the ordinary person has to say ‘don’t know where, don’t know when’. This is how we are as human beings.
But thankfully and gloriously the gospel promises us that God will not let that be the end of the story. Death will not have the last word. Not only has Jesus come to redeem us from sin, but God intends, on a future date unknown to us, to totally reclaim this world for Himself, for life, for light and for love. There will be a general resurrection of the dead and that will happen at the Second Coming of Jesus. The prophet Daniel tells us: ‘And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever’ (Dan.12:2,3). The righteousness that prepares us for that day is the gift of righteousness found through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Repair Shop is also about technology. Ancient clocks, model electric trains and jukeboxes are carefully taken to pieces, their mechanisms exposed, cleaned and restored. It is intriguing to see the craftsmanship and contrivances of past times.
Vast strides forward have been made in the present digital era and the frontiers are forever being expanded. As we stand back and ask where all this is going we may find ourselves surprised. For good or ill we now have to contemplate the coming together of biology and computer science. The technology of the human body uses the vocabulary of posthumanism and transhumanism, with the body being augmented by other devices. It comes down to a striving for immortality through technology. The ‘holy grail’ is eternal life. It is another way of longing for resurrection. But what our technology will never achieve – eternal life (without God) – God has already achieved in the resurrection of Jesus. The future is actually His.
John Benton is Director of Pastoral Support at The Pastor’s Academy, www.pastorsacademy.org